Dermatophobia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

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Within the long list of more than 200 registered phobias, there are some that are better known than others. One of the least known but that generates great discomfort in those who suffer from it is dermatophobia.

Throughout this article we will describe the characteristics of dermatophobia, as well as its symptoms, causes and what treatments have been most effective for this phobia related to skin problems or diseases.

What is dermatophobia?

Also known as dermatopathophobia or dermatosiophobia, dermatophobia is one of the many specific phobias that a small percentage of the population suffers from. This anxiety disorder is characterized because, in the cases of people who suffer from it, it appears a deep terror of skin diseases or any type of damage that occurs to the skin

Although it is not a very common phobia, dermatophobic people experience extremely high rates of discomfort and anxiety, reaching the point of living obsessed, hyper-protecting their skin so that it does not suffer any type of damage and undergoing constant check-ups and verifications of the condition of your skin

Another of the main characteristics of dermatophobia is the great variety of manifestations that it causes in different people. Given that any stimulus that could represent or be a precursor to a skin disease is likely to be perceived as a threat, It is complex to determine exactly what is causing the anxiety response in the person

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For example, one person with dermatophobia may experience an anxiety response when noticing that their skin is a little dry, while another may react to itching or believe that using cosmetics or soaps can damage their skin. Therefore, in dermatophobia the interpretation of the stimulus depends completely on the person’s judgment.

Fears associated with this disorder

Unlike other phobias, in dermatophobia the person can fear both the fact of suffering from a skin disease and those other objects or external agents that may cause it.

In addition, This phobia is not caused by a series of specific or fixed stimuli but these can vary depending on the beliefs or subjectivity of the person.

Therefore, other stimuli associated with dermatophobia that can generate an anxiety response in the person are:

1. Insects

The mere possibility of an insect causing any type of injury or damage to the skin through a bite, causes in the person an anxiety response typical of a disorder of anxiety.

2. Changes in temperatures

Both sudden changes in temperature and situations of extreme cold or heat can cause itching or irritation of the skin, as well as dryness Therefore, a person with dermatophobia will tend to avoid any context in which these changes may occur.

3. Burns

A person with dermatophobia will tend to avoid spaces where there is fire such as fireplaces or places where there are people smoking since the possibility of it burning is perceived as very high

4. Needles

Although they have a specific phobia, it is not the needle itself that causes fear but the possible damage it can cause to the skin.

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5. Piercings and tattoos

Both the idea of ​​getting a tattoo or piercing and the fact of observing them on the skin of others causes a feeling of aversion or repulsion in dermatophobic people


Since dermatobia is included within the category of specific anxiety disorders, shares its symptoms with most phobias

This wide range of symptoms occurs as a consequence of an increase in the activity of the nervous system which is accelerated by the presence of the nervous stimulus. This activity causes three types of symptoms in the person: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms.

1. Physical symptoms

At the moments in which the dermatophobic person perceives a change in their skin or is faced with a possible threatening stimulus, a series of changes in their body typical of the anxiety response begin to occur. These changes include:

2. Cognitive symptoms

Like the rest of phobias, the appearance of physical symptoms is triggered by cognitive symptoms. That is, for a series of beliefs and fears that the person has in relation to the phobic stimulus

In this case, the person has a series of distorted thoughts or erroneous beliefs about skin diseases, their symptoms and the agents that cause them.

3. Behavioral symptoms

As a consequence of the cognitive symptoms mentioned above, the person will also experience a series of behavioral symptoms, which manifested through avoidance or escape behaviors

Therefore, in dermatophobia, people will carry out all types of behaviors to avoid changes in the state of their skin, such as constant checks, excessive hygiene or fear of using cosmetics or avoiding areas where they may encounter possible threats.

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As with many other anxiety disorders, The causes or origins of dermatophobia have not been specifically established

However, it is hypothesized that a genetic predisposition combined with the experience of some type of highly stressful or traumatic situation in which the person, or someone very close to them, had suffered some damage to the skin could cause the appearance of this type of phobia.


In the treatment of dermatophobia it is essential the use of psychotherapy to end distorted thoughts and beliefs that generate the rest of the symptoms. Furthermore, intervention through systematic desensitization along with relaxation training is usually the most effective option.